Florida AG Pam Bondi files suit against defunct Legendary Journeys, ‘Al and Chuck’

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed legal action against Legendary Journeys, Inc., owner/president Adrian L. Ferguson, Jr. and vice president Charles T. Scott Aug. 21, alleging the defunct travel agency owes consumers over $3 million.

Defendants Ferguson and Scott, commonly known as Al and Chuck, operated the LGBTQ-friendly, Sarasota-based travel agency and its statewide branches until its abrupt closure Oct. 24, 2017. According to the complaint, the duo “deceptively and unfairly collected millions of dollars from consumers for the supposed purpose of booking travel but failed to deliver on the promised trips or to issue refunds to their customers.”

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Bernie Sanders endorses several progressives ahead of primaries

By : Jeremy Williams
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Sen. Bernie Sanders has achieved rockstar status ever since running in the 2016 presidential election. While he didn’t win, he has maintained that status, so when he rolled into town to speak at a rally for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running to be the Democratic nominee in the Florida gubernatorial race, it was no surprise that several hundred young, progressive voters turned up at UCF’s CFE Arena for a chance to hear him speak.

Governor-hopeful Gillum, who earned an endorsement from Bernie, spoke about the same values that Bernie campaigned on: affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage and equality for all. Before Bernie and Andrew came to the stage, the crowd was greeted by our own proud progressive, feminist, queer, Latinx, Democrat, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

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Florida AG candidate Sean Shaw fights ‘for the people, not the powerful’ if elected

By : Layla Ferris
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TAMPA | Rep. Sean Shaw (D-Tampa) pledges to fight “for the people, not the powerful” if elected as Florida’s next attorney general.

Shaw, a Sunshine State native who studied law at the University of Florida, has represented District 61 for the State House of Representatives since 2016. While in office Shaw supported The Florida Competitive Workforce Act and voted to ban conversion therapy statewide.

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06.14.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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As you are reading this it has been a few days since the two-year mark of the Pulse tragedy, but because of how deadlines and press days fall, I am writing this the day before the June 12 date.

June 12 carries a weird energy with me now. For those who don’t know, I share my birthday with the same day that a disturbed individual decided to take 49 lives at Pulse. Last year at the one-year mark, while attending memorials and vigils, I was receiving notifications of Happy Birthday and messages wishing me a fun and happy day all while grieving with my community and consoling friends.

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Ros-Lehtinen talks retirement, slams Trump’s military trans ban

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-Fla.) speaks with the Washington Blade at her office on Capitol Hill on May 21. Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) last week reiterated her criticism of President Trump over a host of issues that includes his effort to ban transgender people from the military.

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Anti-LGBTQ Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi racked up $253 million in taxpayer costs over six years

By : Wire Report
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TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott and other top Florida Republicans frequently complain about government spending, but they have quietly spent more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Florida taxpayers also have been forced to reimburse nearly $16 million for their opponents’ private attorney fees. That means an overall $253 million has been spent on legal fights in the last six years, including a water war with Georgia and losing battles to test welfare recipients for drugs, trim the state’s voter registration lists and ban companies that do business with Cuba from bidding on government contracts.

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Editor’s Desk: Feeling down, looking up. This is us now.

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

It’s so easy to get down in times like these. You may not see it coming, but then, there you are rolling off a cliff into the abyss of misspent memories and into that gurgling pool of anxiety. You don’t know what’s next, but you do know that it probably won’t be good, just because. Just because.

This isn’t an attempt to stifle anyone’s New Year’s affectations for 2016’s knock-em-down, kick-em-hard disappointments going away, but more of a knowing glance. We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before – well, we always have been seeing new things (it’s nature), but these things seem to hurt more.

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Uprisings: No apologies

By : Billy Manes
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By now, we’ve all had a few weeks to breathe in the post-traumatic, post-Trumpian world of Tweets and nonsense. By now we’ve survived our Thanksgiving skirmishes with chest-puffed grumpy uncles and the general racists and horror shows of our particular broods. By now, we’ve even danced around the daisies of Green Party hopeful Jill Stein and her swing-state strategy of proving nothing in a recount that is not meant to benefit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but rather to flex her own nascent political muscle one last time. By now, we’re aware of the hell we’re facing.

There isn’t nearly enough sugar – outside of Big Sugar – to coat the results of the Nov. 8 general election and its subsequent horror of errors. In just a week or so, the Electoral College will cast the final stone, leaving us swirling in a vacuum of idiocy, most of which will be stuffed with as much acrimony as a fraudulent billionaire can afford. Donald Trump got his wish: he is king of the mountain; it’s all on him.

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Uprisings: Absentee ballot

By : Billy Manes
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My first time meeting current senatorial and failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio was at a princess party. It was 2008, we were in the upstairs area of the legislature where people come to be actual people, and we shook hands while his daughter’s friends leapt around in pink taffeta. Rubio, who is just one year younger than me by a week, was playing dad, and all of that was fine, as it should be.

I watched Rubio when he led the House floor, gavel in hand. I looked into his eyes as he made it certain that he really didn’t care about what wrath he was enabling from the far right, about what women he was ignoring, about what princesses would never be real princesses according to his flight of Floridian fancy. Rubio, a linchpin for the Republican Party if only for his looks and his connection to Hispanic voters, came off as a fraud. And, yes, these are mere observations. But sometimes staring someone in the eyes is the shortest distance between speculation and fact. Rubio, as a U.S. Senator, has been widely reported as a derelict to the justice he was elected to embody. Sift the records all you want; Rubio missed 41 percent of the votes he was elected to oversee. Rubio is not qualified for his job. Rubio is a plant.

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Uprisings: Diminishing returns

By : Billy Manes
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Though anyone who is taking the time to read this missive understands that this writer’s cynicism weighs more than two heavy bricks in two large pockets, the fact that the Aug. 30 primary only drew a 20 percent crowd in Orange County – and a similar number in Pinellas County – is a bit of a kick in the teeth. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. I was asked by numerous voters who to vote for, but I didn’t have the time to just throw numbers and precincts in their faces. I also didn’t, perhaps, do my due diligence in making that clear.

In a primary, in a gay paper, we don’t generally parse details. You’re with us, or you’re against us. We aren’t going to vote Republican, generally, so there’s that (sorry about your logs). The pols that have been with us were very clear in their messaging, and we likely profiled them in the past. The ones who are against us? Well, there aren’t enough ticks in a clock for us to deal with them at any reasonable length. So, on one hand, I’m issuing an apology. If any news source should be standing and screaming into the district-depths of individual primaries, it should be us, mine, the one that I edit. On the other hand, these are small towns and there are a lot of voices, many of which are familiar with my contact information, so I didn’t want to sink into the quicksand of political gamesmanship. In fact, because of social media, I did make some personal comments on personal pages, and I may have overstepped and come off as a dick.

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Attitudes toward LGBT community at odds across Florida

By : Wire Report
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Tallahassee, Fla. (AP) – Florida’s Key West is one of the most gay-friendly places in the country. The Florida Panhandle – many locals call it the Redneck Riviera – is a different story.

The massacre of 49 people in a gay nightclub happened between these extremes, forcing many Floridians to reconsider their assumptions about the state’s evolving culture.

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Gay marriage fight will cost Florida a cool $200,000… so far

By : Wire Report
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Tallahassee, Fla. (AP) – Florida is going to pay at least $213,000 for its losing battle to keep intact a voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

State officials have agreed to pay that much to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida to cover attorney fees and other costs. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is also actively negotiating a settlement with another group of attorneys involved in the case.

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